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Cheesecake, amaretto or goat cheese and onion jam?
Life in Israel
Cheesecake, amaretto or goat cheese and onion jam?

Those were just some of the new hamantaschen options this year on offer at a bakery in Tel Aviv, one of dozens around the country, which was bustling in advance of the Purim holiday, which started on Saturday evening.

“The public trusts us to expose them to new flavours,” said the owner of Roladin, Itzik Shamsian.

In recent years, Israeli bakeries have increasingly offered gourmet versions of the three-cornered pastry — including marzipan or gluten-free varieties — alongside the classics, like poppyseed. The change reflects the growing sophistication of Israel’s culinary scene, which is focused on updating traditional dishes and fusing them with cuisines from around the world.

Purim — which commemorates the Jews’ deliverance from Haman, an evil adviser to an ancient Persian king — is a festive holiday for both religious and secular Jews in Israel. It is characterized by costumes and parties, including in the streets of some cities.

But perhaps the most iconic symbol of the holiday are hamantaschen— called oznay haman, or “Haman’s ears,” in Hebrew. In the weeks before Purim, they pop up in bakeries, cafes and kitchens around the country, and the treats are included in the mishloach manot, or Purim gift baskets, Israelis traditionally exchange for the holiday.

Ashkenazi Jews, about half of Israel’s Jewish population, have been making hamantaschen on Purim for generations, and little has fundamentally changed. A piece of dough is folded into a triangle around a sweet filling and baked. In Israel, the classics are poppyseed, chocolate and date, with jam not nearly as common as in the United States or Europe.

Like its population, Israel’s food is a mishmash of global influences, from Poland to Morocco. Until recently, cooking mostly took place in the home. But in the past decade or so, food has gone public, with an explosion of dining options in Tel Aviv and other cities. Cooking shows, like Israel’s version of “MasterChef,” which celebrate and refine Israel’s diverse culinary heritage, have shattered viewing records and made household names out of celebrity chefs like Eyal Shani and Haim Cohen.

Shamsian, the Roladin manager, however acknowledged that the most popular flavours at his branch remain poppyseed, chocolate and date.

Click here to read the full article in Times of Israel

Friday, March 17, 2017
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